By Feb. 17, 2009, all full-power television stations will shut down their analog transmitters and become 100 percent digital, and the millions of American households with at least one analog TV that is not connected to a pay-TV service will see those sets go dark unless viewers take action.
One option is the purchase of a digital-to-analog converter box.
To help those consumers who want to buy a converter box, Congress directed the U.S. Department of Commerce's National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) to run a $1.5 billion TV converter-box coupon program (www.dtv2009.gov). Through March 31, 2009, consumers may apply for up to two $40 coupons, each of which may be used towards the purchase of a coupon- eligible converter box (CECB).
Consumer electronics retailers are a critical part of the transition to digital broadcast television. Properly trained retail staff plays a valuable role in educating consumers about their choices in a digital broadcast world. By helping consumers choose among their various options — including digital-to-analog converter boxes, digital televisions, and cable, satellite or other pay-TV service — retailers can assure that consumers understand the transition and make the best choice to continue watching television after Feb. 17, 2009. Other digital-to-analog products with enhancements like DVRs and DVD players are likely to be sold that will not be eligible for purchase with the coupon.
Only "certified retailers" will be reimbursed by the Treasury for the $40 electronic coupon cards redeemed at their stores when customers purchase the basic coupon-eligible converter. In order to be certified, retailers must choose a coupon redemption alternative and agree to abide by certain program requirements. Coupon redemption alternatives are designed to appeal to a wide range of retailers — storefront and online, large and small — and range from integrated point-of-sale solutions to interactive voice response and Web options. Retailer participation in the coupon program is voluntary.
Certified Retailers must agree to adhere to the rules governing proper use and processing of the electronic coupon cards.
Certified Retailers must:
- Have systems that are capable of electronically processing coupons for redemption and payment, tracking each transaction and generating auditable reports.
- Train employees on the purpose and operation of the coupon program. The NTIA will provide training materials to certified retailers in both hardcopy and electronic form.
- Use commercially reasonable methods to order and manage inventory to meet customer demand for CECBs.
- Assist NTIA in minimizing incidents of waste, fraud, and abuse, including reporting suspicious patterns of customer behavior.
- Have in place systems or procedures that can be easily audited and can provide adequate data to minimize fraud and abuse in retail redemption and government payment for coupons.
- Have coupon-eligible converter-box sales audited.
- Electronically provide NTIA with redemption information and payment receipts related to coupons used in the purchase of converter boxes, specifically tracking each serialized coupon by number with a corresponding CECB purchase.
- Only accept coupons for, and receive payment resulting from, authorized purchases made for CECBs.
Store management personnel and floor staff should understand the following:
- Coupons are to be used only toward the purchase of a CECB. They cannot be used toward the purchase of any other merchandise.
- Coupons cannot be used after the expiration date printed on the front of the card. Coupons will expire 90 days after mailing.
- The coupon value will be $40 or the price of the CECB, whichever is less.
- Each coupon is to be used for the purchase of one CECB only. The consumer may use two coupons only if they purchase two converter boxes.
- Each coupon is designed for one-time use. If a coupon is presented for a second time, the transaction will be denied.
- Consumers may not return a CECB to a retailer for a cash refund for the coupon amount or make an exchange for another item unless it is another CECB.
- Using the coupon redemption alternative chosen during registration, the retailer will need to provide a valid coupon, Merchant ID and CECB UPC or SKU data to redeem the coupon.
- Not all converter boxes are eligible for purchase under the coupon program. A list of CECBs, including make and model number, is available on the Retailer Web site at www.ntiadtv.gov.
NTIA welcomes the participation of a variety of retailers. We know that our program and the transition to digital broadcast television will only be successful with the help of retailers. For more on program rules, to sign up, and to find answers to frequently asked questions, go to www.ntiadtv.gov.